- Upright styling
- Smooth ride quality
- Carlike acceleration and grip
- Roomy cabin and cargo area
- Upright styling
- Steering can feel light
- Pricey, of course
The smaller, nimbler 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK sport-ute comes to America at just the right time.
With vehicles like the BMW X3, Acura RDX, and Land Rover LR2 already on the ground, the other German automakers are playing catch-up. Audi is on the scene with the new 2009 Q5—and now, Mercedes-Benz introduces the 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK.
A compact crossover with a big three-pointed star up front and a big price tag in the mid-$30,000s, the Mercedes GLK joins a fast-growing clique of expensive compact crossovers with a hard-edged look that's the exact opposite tack taken by the competition, except Land Rover. The 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK doesn't bear the family resemblance to the next-bigger Benz ML-Class. It's far more like the seven-passenger GL-Class that's a favorite of TheCarConnection.com's editors—yet, at the same time, it's also a dead ringer for a range of mid-'90s Japanese crossovers like the Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander. The overall look is clean and distinctive, but one that might have to grow on upscale buyers. Inside, it's more of the same—the GLK's instrument panel bears a striking resemblance to BMW interiors, and there's a wide swath of wood trim that helps dress up some of the obvious plastics and some of the retro references.
There's a single engine and transmission combination, for now, in the 2010 GLK. When it goes on sale in the spring, it will be powered by a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. That ample power is transmitted to the road through 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission. In this configuration, the GLK's estimated highway fuel economy settles in at 22 mpg. Later, Mercedes promises, rear-drive and diesel-powered GLKs will be added to the lineup. The gas-powered version hits 60 mph in about 6.7 seconds, according to company estimates, and the powertrain's an ample producer of smooth highway swiftness.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK is obviously not tuned for off-roading, since it responds instantly to minor squeezes on the gas pedal. Shift paddles also underscore that this crossover SUV is truly meant for the open road, not the boulder-strewn one. European buyers get an Off-Road Engineering package that outfits it properly, but not American buyers. Even so, the 4MATIC system isn't without value. The four-wheel-drive system adjusts as the various traction systems determine where torque is needed most; in on-road driving, it can prove very useful in foul-weather driving. On the road, the GLK's light-touch steering and adaptive "Agility Control" suspension give it a friendlier feel than the Land Rover ute, and one quite similar to the BMW X3.
The GLK's cabin and cargo areas are roomy and upright, which means taller drivers will find a comfortable seating position. The front seats in the 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK are supportive and nicely tailored, and the adjustable and telescoping steering wheel make it easy for TheCarConnection.com's experts to find a great driving position. In the second row, the three-person bench has good enough knee room and headroom, plus the seats flip and fold to create a cargo area of 54.7 cubic feet. The chief complaint in the GLK, and a minor one, is that the cabin doesn't feel as richly appointed as some Benz vehicles, and the retro-ish styling doesn't help.
There's been no scrimping in terms of safety. The glassy, tall-roofed, slim-pillared GLK has few issues with visibility. And it features all the expected safety gear, including standard front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as stability control.
The 2010 GLK's standard equipment list is comprehensive. It includes 19-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, leather trim, a panoramic sunroof, and Bluetooth connectivity. A six-CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a power liftgate, a navigation system, and 20-inch wheels are among the options.